In our new book, Catastrophe, we spell out clearly how Obama has disarmed us in the war on terror and excoriate him for giving Hamas almost $1 billion in foreign aid funneled through the United Nations relief agency in Gaza that takes orders from Hamas. But now, the Administration’s weakness in supporting human rights in Iran writes a sad chapter in the history of our foreign policy.
For her part, Hillary Clinton is really playing hardball with Iran! Faced with its outrageous conduct in killing its own citizens to cow them into silence, she has disinvited Iranian diplomats from the hot dog festival commemorating July 4th. That’ll show ’em.
But, in Catastrophe, we propose stronger action. One specific step that could send just the right message to Iran is to cut back its gasoline supplies. Despite having the world’s second largest reserves of oil, Iran must import 40% of its gasoline because of a lack of refining capacity. Most of its refined gasoline comes from the Jamnagar Refinery, operated and owned by Reliance Industries, an Indian company. And guess who has guaranteed a $500 million loan to expand this refinery? You did. The American taxpayer, through the Export-Import Bank provided the loan guarantees as part of a $900 million package to Reliance.
We urge Congress to pass the Sherman-Kirk Amendment, which just cleared a House Appropriation s Subcommittee with bi-partisan support. The amendment, co-sponsored by Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman of California and Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois, would cutoff Export-Import bank financing for any firm that exports gasoline to Iran or helps it to develop new refining capacity.
Orde Kittre, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies calls Iran’s dependence on imported gasoline its “Achilles’ Heel.” So let’s learn a lesson from OPEC and turn the tables, cutting gasoline imports to Iran.
Apart from the obvious question of why the United States taxpayer is helping to finance the refinement of Iran’s gasoline, the Sherman-Kirk Amendment offers the timid Obama Administration the perfect way to show the anger and outrage it claims to feel at the suppression of democratic dissent in Iran. It might even be more effective than the denial of Fourth of July hot dogs.
This bipartisan bill strikes at the very core of Iran’s economy and sends a potent signal of America’s support for human rights and opposition to totalitarian autocracy.
President Obama has unilaterally repealed the emphasis on human rights that was President Jimmy Carter’s major positive foreign policy accomplishment. He has replaced it with a value-neutral policy that appeases the forces of dictatorship and cowers in their wake.
The swift adoption of the Sherman-Kirk Amendment would give Obama a real weapon to discipline Iran and to pressure it to reach an accommodation with its own people. As speculators take their cue from Congress and bet on higher gasoline prices in Iran, the cost of gasoline would rise and catalyze further discontent with the regime. Iran subsidizes its gasoline prices, holding them to approximately 35 cents per gallon. With a falloff in refined capacity, the government would have to jump through hoops to avoid massive inflation in gasoline prices. Rationing would ensue.
Through economic, as opposed to military pressure, Obama will be sending a signal to Iran of how seriously we take human rights in the United States and how little Iran can afford to isolate itself from the global community.
The Sherman-Kirk Amendment is no off the wall idea. It has already been passed by a House Appropriations Subcommittee and, with Administration support, could easily become law.
Now is Obama’s chance to offer more than words to counter Iranian repression. We hope he will seize it.